Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Despite appearances, we really are broke

Now, I've heard this a lot, even from members in my own extended family. And I think it's common. We all think we're lower middle-class...even if some of us really are much higher in that rather broad category than others. Whatever.

In our case though, it's true! More or less...I mean, if you take our monthly income and then subtract our bills, and then subtract our food and misc. expenses (which we've really tried to cut back on) you end up with a negative number. Like, $737 negative. That's a lot. And so we've taken out loans. Student loans, which is nice, but a LOT in loans. And we're making ends meet with that. And managing to buy a new car. And go to Rome.

Yup. Amazing isn't it? Rome, Italy for 3 full days right before Christmas of this year. We've already bought our plane tickets. And, for the most part, I'm just really excited. Mr. Man remarked at one point that it really took him getting fired for us to do this, and was noting the irony. When he had the old job we actually would have had enough money to swing such a DREAM of a vacation. But we never would have and did not while he was employed there. Why? 2 reasons, really. 1. it was impossible for him to get the time off. and 2. we were so worried about being responsible and doing the right thing and planning for our future and honestly, between socking money away for retirement, babies, rainy days, etc. you have very little left that is expendable. I say that as if we had socked money away for those things, when in fact we did not. We did sock some away...but not much, and not enough to cover any of those 3 categories.

So, what's different now that we're broke? I think we realized that there has to be balance. Yeah, you should be responsible (considering we're still paying our bills, I think we are) and debt sucks. Duh. But at the same time, what's the point of always saving, and never taking that dream trip...if all you have to show at the end is a lot of money in your bank account? Sure, that equals security and I do want to feel secure. But I also don't want to miss out on living. I've said it many times while in school, I'm tired of waiting for my life to begin. Well, at some point in the last year, we realized that's just a mindset. We're living our lives every day. So stop waiting, and start living.

And, we're realizing that even though we've done everything more or less right, we're still getting screwed by things beyond our control (the economy). I mean, we did all the research, we got a vanilla 30-yr fixed loan with a large and dependable bank...and now we're stuck in a house that is worth literally half what we owe on it with very few options. How is any of that our fault? It's not. That's the thing. It's not our fault, but it is our lot and we're stuck with it. So, even though you can do everything right, you can still get screwed over. Therefore...we're less concerned with doing everything right and more concerned with seizing opportunities and living life as it comes. Being responsible too, but really living for the present and enjoying what we do have.

And so we're going to Rome. It will be funded entirely by student loans (I just accepted an extra loan for spring that should cover the trip). And really, I feel good about it. I feel like it's the "right" thing and the "right" choice, amazingly enough. And...we always said we wanted to travel to Europe before having kids. Now we can. I think that may end up being important for our future happiness, so I'm glad we got the opportunity and seized it.

Besides, I feel it should be noted that we got an amazing deal. We're both flying round trip for less than a normal single round trip fair. Can't really beat that! It's like buy one get one free! We'll have 3 full days in Rome and part of a day in London (due to a LOOOONG lay-over). I think it's going to be Awesome.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Really? Do I look Fat to you?

We went to the state fair yesterday. It was tons of fun...and really bad for our digestion. We've taken to spending most our money on the food. In fact, we made sure to go for a full day today, so we could eat everything we wanted. Last year we just couldn't manage it. This year...we didn't make it either. We just couldn't stomach that funnel cake at the end of the day. We'd had enough. It was a good day.

But in the midst of our smorgasbord we were inside looking at exhibits/shops/not-really-sure-booths and found a place selling the most delicious cinnamon rolls! So we got one...with the cream cheese frosting on top. Yes we did. And not 3 booths down we found a place that was doing free cholesterol and blood pressure screening. Mr. Man decided he needed to do it. As I'm standing mid-bite with that lovely cinnamon roll in hand.

Sighing, I put the fork down, and say I'm game too. They start out by asking you to fill out your standard release form and then ask your height and weight. They then read your BMI off a chart and put it on your form. The lovely "intake nurse" who filled out my form heard 5' instead of 5'4" when I told her how tall I was. She got my weight right (didn't think I'd publish that did you?) but the result of the 4 inch discrepancy was that my BMI was recorded as 24. I believe 25 and over is considered overweight. I noticed the error, but at this point was waiting to move to station #2 - the finger jab.

It didn't hurt as bad as I remember my last finger jab, so that was nice. They took 2 drops of blood - one for a cholesterol screen and one for glucose. Hah! I was convinced mine would look terrible considering the few bites I had already smuggled of that delightful cinnamon roll. (in fact it was measured normal...and even lower than Mr. Man's!)

After getting your finger poked you moved to Station #3 where a lady debriefed you on your numbers. Upon determining that Mr. Man and I were, in fact, together, they debriefed us together. She started on me, with my BMI of 24. She informed me in disapproving tones that I could not stand to gain another pound, and in fact, the difference between me and *overweight* was a mere 10 pounds. At this point I interrupted her to point out that the BMI recorded was incorrect, and in fact my real BMI was 21. Yeah...at the time I found it a little amusing, but something rankled.

As we walked away and I tucked into that cinnamon roll I realized what it was. Really, lady? Do I look as if I'm nearly overweight? Answer carefully here. I'd like to believe she just looked at the paper and went into her spiel and having done it countless times already wasn't really thinking about it. But she looked me right in the face as she delivered her lecture. And she seemed quite sincere and concerned...not at all canned. Now, may I point out, that my actual weight is 120 pounds (yup, I said it...but I figure this is an anonymous blog, I'll go for it. It helps illustrate my point). In order to have the BMI she thought I had, I'd need to put on a good 20 pounds to weigh 140 pounds. I don't know how much YOU study body types - but there's a difference between a woman who is 5'4" and 140 pounds, and one who is 120 pounds. There's no dancing around that fact. And quite frankly...I'm offended that she thought I was a good 20 pounds heavier than I actually am.

So I made sure to finish that cinnamon roll...and the ice cream cone...and the Navajo taco...and the curly fries...and the deep fried smore (so not worth it)...and the multiple pink lemonades...but I guess that's all we got through. It seemed like so much more at the time...

Though for the record, Mr. Man and I split each of the above. :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Proving Good Neighbors Still Exist - By Being One

I hope it catches on. :)

So, I've heard the complaint many a time, including from my own lips. Someone moves to a new neighborhood and days, weeks, months pass by with seeming no notice from their neighbors. This happened to us. We were one of the last to move in on our street (it's a newly built neighborhood) and no one came to introduce themselves. No one came by to welcome us. Of course, we never went to their houses to introduce ourselves either. I think in our first year I'd waved at our next door neighbor maybe twice. We just kept different hours or something. Plus we both park in our garage, which makes it a little harder to meet each other.

Finally, after living here for two years, I happened to come home and see her and her daughters in their driveway. So, I parked my car...and then got out and introduced myself. It was nice. She seemed nice. We talked about the chore of maintaining our front yards. She mentioned that all she has are little hand shears - the kind you might use for a small indoor plant. I told her I'd send the boys (Mr. Man and 2 of his friends) her way next time they trimmed our trees.

That was several months ago. The boys have yet to return to trim our trees. However, I have gone out and done the deed. Today I started out trimming my favorite plant in our yard - a bird of paradise. It's beautiful. It's like a really large bush that gets beautiful orange, red and yellow flowers in the summer. And the hotter it gets the happier it is. It's perfect for the desert. And it's thriving overgrowth is a testament to that. I won't let Mr. Man trim it - I love it so much. I insist that I get to be the one to shape the beautiful beast of a bush. It's nearly as tall as our neighbor's tree it grows right next to. :) But it was starting to grow over the driveway as well, and the flowers are starting to fade so it was time.

So I trimmed the Bird of Paradise. And then noticed that our neighbor's tree was out of control. These two plants grow between our driveways, and the tree was starting to look more like a bush. And the branches hanging down not only blocked our view while backing out, but were starting to limit the sunlight my beloved Bird of Paradise was getting. So I decided to just go ahead and trim it up for her. So, not a totally self-less act, clearly, but one I hope she appreciates. A small part of me worries I should have asked first...but I really didn't do too much. Just pruned away all the branches I could reach at the bottom.

Anyway, I think it was the neighborly thing to do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I was reading over old posts and realized I needed to update a few things to bring this blog current. First, we heard from the police department. They canceled their test and are rescheduling it for next year. Basically they said they didn't anticipate any openings for the rest of the year. Which boils down to the crappy economy. We need TH to get this job because of the crappy economy, but it looks like he won't get it until the economy uncrappifies. Bummer. It's a blow to be sure - this is his DREAM job. But at least it wasn't a solid No. There's still a chance. So, we'll take it. Meanwhile, BBBB loves his current job, and that's a definite plus.

Additionally, we've decided to keep our current course. We'll keep taking out student loans and paying our bills. Our bank definitely says they're processing us for the modification, so hopefully that will pan out. If it does it'll save us $6,000 per year. Instead of -$700 per month, we'd be at -$200. How great would that be! We'd only need $2,400 in student loans to break even. A far cry better than what we need now. So we're still definitely hoping this works out for us.

And, like the last post said, we're going for it and letting nature take its course as far as pregnancy is concerned. Basically, after all my whining and complaining, I realized that I should be grateful I at least have the option to take out student loans. No, it's not ideal...but we could be a lot worse off.

We're still trying to get BBBB's medical bill sorted out. The hospital wants more paperwork. Since we technically have the amount in our savings we're nervous they'll want us to pay the full amount...I can't say I'd be surprised, but it is frustrating. I mean, when you look at our debt to income ratio we should not have any savings, and really all we have is from before TH lost his job. Taking a big chunk of that to pay medical bills with our current situation would mean we're out the money for a long time. And if for some reason I can't get student loans next year we're royally screwed as we'll have no safety net. I guess all we can do is ask...

Monday, October 19, 2009

We're Going For It

So, I am finally ready to say, let's do it. Let's "try" for a baby. I've waffled on this for about a year now. I kept going back and forth. Meanwhile, for about 6 months now BBBB has been solidly "ready". So it's just been me holding up the show. :) Sounds about typical.

Basically, I've gone back and forth on a few things.

One is finances...we're so not really financially in a good place. We have some savings, but they're piddly. And we're taking out student loans to make ends meet. If everything stays the same until I graduate (2012 or 2013) then there's going to be a LOT of student loan debt at the end of this. Of course, a brief look over this blog will show you that the odds of things staying the same for 3 to 4 years are not very good. And I've been told more than once that if you're waiting until you have "enough" money, you'll be waiting forever. I believe them. Of course you should have some financial stability...and we kind of do.

Then there's the issue of age. I know full well that fertility peaks in your 20's and starts dwindling in your 30's. So...the longer we wait, theoretically, the worse our odds of conceiving a healthy baby. Additionally, we both want to be "young" enough to horse around with our kids when they're 10. BBBB's dad was 34 when he was born (he's the youngest) and that was old enough that he wasn't quite able to horse around. And he's in fairly decent shape. But he was in his mid-forties when BBBB was 10...
PLUS there's the additional knowledge that my own mother was 26 when she had me (I was her first) and that the average age today in the U.S. for first time mothers is 25! I'm behind the curve here! That being said, I feel a lot more patient, mature and ready at 26 than I was at 21, or even 25. So, while you don't want to be "too old" how old is old enough? Sometimes I still feel so young.

Of course there's also the factor of career. Some might scoff at my notion that my graduate education is my career, but as I want to be a professor it really is. This is my launching point. The research I do now will really help me land my future job. What I do now does influence my career, so I need to be sure I can have a baby and be able to manage the demands on my time between my career and a baby. Just like anyone else. The good news is, I should be done with classwork by next May - so while anytime this last year would have been difficult for having a baby, at this point I'm more or less in the clear. A plus for having a baby now is the argument that I'll be better able to balance a baby and my career when I'm in grad school and can have a rather flexible schedule and do a lot of work at home. This will not be the case when I start a new job, especially if I go tenure-track.

Another consideration, to be perfectly honest, is that I am SLOOOOW in the morning. And I don't do well on no sleep. How on earth will I manage with a new baby?

And then finally there's the "list". We don't really have a list, but we have talked multiple times about the things we want to accomplish before procreating. On this list are a lot of travel locations. With the overarching entry - AT LEAST go to Europe. We have not. With our current financial position, it is not likely we will go in the near future. While that's not a make-or-break, I can't help but think that if we can't go now, we'll certainly not be going with a new baby. I hear they're expensive. :)

So those were the major points in my waffling. Back and forth, back forth I'd weight the pros and cons of each issue. And some days I'd lean toward going for it. Other days I'd think I was crazy for ever considering it. Quite often I convince myself that I'm still quite YOUNG in reality. What's the rush?

So what happened? Did I have an epiphany? Maybe. But there was no "ah hah" moment. In fact, I don't even know when the decisiveness set in. Sometime in the last month. I just finally decided that now is the right time. And I feel peace with the decision, having made it. Which is always reassuring. And I feel excited!

That being said we're not planning to "time" things and go nuts trying to get preggo ASAP. Our decision to "go for it" means that we'll stop preventing and see where that gets us. Statistics say that should get us pregnant within a year 85% of the time. And that works for me. I do hope I'm pregnant by this time next year...truth be told, I'd even like a Fall Baby. So we'll see how it goes. Should be a fun and interesting ride.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I got it. Yup. Swine Flu. It was awful...fever for four days until I finally went to doctor (yup, you should do what they say and go sooner). They gave me Tamiflu and it worked - I started feeling better the next day. Still have a cough and some loss of lung function (ie, I lose my breath pretty easy still) but I'm finally back to school.

Friday, October 2, 2009

For my reference, and anyone else who finds it useful

8 Ways to Ease Your Worries

courtesy of Yahoo.com

1. Accept that troubles are part of life. With all the focus on celebrity lifestyles during the past decade or so, “it’s almost as if we’ve been told life is supposed to be perfect all the time, and something is wrong with us if it isn’t,” says Victoria Moran, author of Living a Charmed Life. “That’s not true!”

Sometimes you just happen to be the person whose car runs over a nail in the road, and you end up with a flat tire. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. Being careful won’t eliminate every last chance of picking up a nail. Neither will being nice and working hard on your driving skills.

In the same way, you aren’t any more unlucky than anyone else if the economic slowdown is creating new difficulties for you. The answer to “Why me?” is “Why not me?” When you keep reminding yourself that life has its ups and downs, you’re better able to “change your default setting,” as Moran puts it. “All of a sudden, ‘Everyone’s healthy, and we’re safe and content, even now,’ becomes as good as ‘Rich and getting richer,’” she says.

2. Don’t obsess over the news. Molly Peter, a real estate agent and mother of four in Bethesda, Maryland, never watches the news anymore. “It’s surprising how much more positive I feel every day,” she says. Instead, she listens to music or an audiobook while in the car or cooking.

This technique is OK to use as long as you’re not in denial about the upheavals going on, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a University of California, Riverside, professor of psychology and author of The How of Happiness. Of course you want to stay informed—just don’t let it overwhelm you. “Your life will be happier if you focus on affirming things,” rather than things that depress you, says Dr. Lyubomirsky.

3. Reach out to friends. The way you cut fear down to size, says Rev. Dr. Forrest Church, author of 25 books including Freedom from Fear, is to avoid the urge to isolate yourself when trouble hits. It’s crucial to be with people, and by “people,” he means more than your immediate family and the dog.

But that’s not what most of us tend to do. When we get laid off, we feel singled out and helpless. We may be furious, bitter or sad. Most certainly, we feel embarrassed. So we hunker down and hide.

“You can’t let yourself do that,” Dr. Church says. “When you do, you get into a conversation with your fear, and it builds.” You may even start blaming yourself. “One neighbor at a time, one friend at a time, break out of your isolation every day,” he says. “When we start engaging with other people, we find ways around that wall that’s in front of us, solutions and ideas we might not have seen by ourselves.”

4. Cultivate gratitude, now more than ever. You may be eating more rice and beans these days, but if there’s food on the table, that’s a blessing. You can be grateful that your son is learning to read, for your health, for the neighbor who waved as she mowed her lawn.

In a 2002 study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, researcher and psychology professor Martin Seligman, PhD, asked severely depressed people to go to a website once a day, before they went to bed, and write down three good things that had happened that day and why. (These were people who were so depressed that just getting out of bed might be worthy of the list.) Listing three good things daily was their only treatment. Within 15 days, 94% felt less depressed.

The study has been repeated several times since. Every time, researchers found that being thankful actually made the subjects feel happier.

“Saying thank you is powerful,” says Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, who recently became the first woman to become executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, representing Conservative Jewish rabbis worldwide. “It turns us from a mindset of lack to a mindset of gratitude for the good things in our lives.”

5. Decide not to worry. Studies have found that some people worry 10 times more than other people do, although their life circumstances may not be much different from those of people who hardly worry at all. Not surprisingly, the champion worriers were more likely to report being unhappy than those who worried less. Some people are predisposed to worry more than others, says Boston College psychologist Maya Tamir, PhD, but we do have some control over it, meaning we can choose whether to worry or not. Deciding not to worry is not the same as pretending everything is fine. By all means, be practical. But once you’ve made a plan for “what if I get laid off,” don’t continue to fret about it in your head or talk about it to others, advises Dr. Lyubomirsky.

6. This goes for dwelling, too. Dwelling, or replaying a stressful event over and over in your head, can keep you stuck. Dr. Lyubomirsky has documented the negative effects of dwelling. Psychologists call this rumination, and there are tricks to stopping it, she says. One is to see whether you have any worry triggers and to distract yourself when you begin to ruminate.

Try different tactics until you can turn off worry the way you change a TV channel. Solitary exercise may not help unless you work out so hard you don’t think about other things. “I used to go for a run when I found myself ruminating,” reports Dr. Lyubomirsky. “Well, running made me do it more!” Good bets: reading to a child or watching a funny movie.

Another trick she finds effective: Make a worry appointment with yourself. Plan to worry from 9 to 9:30 a.m., for example, and if you find you’re worrying at any other time during the day, tell yourself to put it on hold. Silly, maybe—but it works, Dr. Lyubomirsky says.

7. Work at staying upbeat. In her latest book, Dr. Lyubomirsky makes an interesting point: A growing body of research shows that our sense of well-being is about 50% dependent on a happiness setpoint. This factor is genetic, much like a weight setpoint. Of the rest, only about 10% is circumstantial: big income or small, married or single, gorgeous or plain. “What’s exciting is that the other 40% percent is under our control,” she says. “It depends on our daily, intentional activities.” Even something as simple as smiling can lift your spirits. “Staying positive is really important, right down to the effect it has on your immune system,” Dr. Lyubomirsky says.

8. Take part in your faith. Worship offers transformative power of its own because it “takes us out of ourselves,” says Rabbi Schonfeld. A faith community can feel like a supportive extended family. Going to the church or synagogue during the week to meet friends or volunteer our time can be a mission when we have no job to go to daily or we don’t know what to do next. And there are a lot of opportunities to help with service and outreach projects.

“Miraculous things can happen when we join hands to help one another,” says Rabbi Schonfeld. “It isn’t just the good works, though they are important. Working together also relieves our fear and anxiety, and gives us a new surge of energy.” Another benefit: We can’t shelter our children, especially our older children, from the troubles related to the present economy. “But we can let them see us acting with a sense of faith and purpose,” which shows them that we’re able to cope, says Rabbi Schonfeld.

Maybe you just flat-out know you need help. If you haven’t been involved with a church before, turning up when you need groceries or you just got a pink slip can feel embarrassing, even hypocritical. Do it anyway, suggests Rev. Jefferts Schori. “Many times we change our lives for the good, or begin a spiritual journey, when we’re feeling the most down and vulnerable,” she says.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Finally, some good news

Aneurysm: weakening in the wall of a blood vessel causing it to "bulge" out

Brief History to get you up to date:

2002 - MRI to try to determine cause of fainting spells. Result - fainting still up in the air, but there's a potential aneurysm. If it is it's really small.

Feb 2009 - see a neurologist for headaches; she suggests a CT scan to determine for sure if it is an aneurysm or not at the same time - it's good to check up on these things and make sure they haven't grown as well, if it is an aneurysm

Feb 2009 - get results, yes, it's an aneurysm. In my brain (to be clear). She wants to follow up in May to see how the headaches are.

May 2009 - follow up appt: she says, yup, it's an aneurysm, but I refer those all to a neurosurgeon.

May 2009 - lose insurance

August 2009 - get insurance through school

Sept 29, 2009 - finally see neurosurgeon! Here's how it went:

First off, I left a little bit early from school in case the lightrail was late. It was. Now, I had looked on a map and was pretty sure the lightrail didn't go close enough to where I was going, so I had parked in the park and ride and ridden the lightrail to school. The plan was to ride back to my car and drive to the appointment. No problem. Well, with the lightrail 10 minute delay (as in I waited 20 min for a train, and they're supposed to come every 10) I was going to be cutting it close. I had no problem with the drive but was frustrated when I see, lo and behold, the lightrail line a mere block away from my appointment location. Whoever made the maps for Phoenix Metro should be fired (from map-making...I'd hate to suggest anyone lose their job in this economy). Because I could do a better job. In fact I may, for my future reference. Moving on.

So I got to the parking lot okay, but then I got lost. It was at a large hospital that had an infinite number of other buildings attached by sky bridges and what not. Well, I followed signs for neuro (makes sense, right?) but wound up in the wrong place. At this point I was stressing because my appointment had been for 1:30 and it was now 1:38. A kind nurse was trying to tell me where to go but it was darn confusing (due to construction you had to wind your way through various buildings) so another nurse was like, screw this, come with me honey! You're late! I'll help you! She was so great. So she led me around the building (and construction) and walked me halfway to the right building and then pointed out the doors to get me the rest of the way. (thanks Nurse!!)

So, I get to the right place at 1:45 and I'm freaking out. Turns out my appointment was for 2pm...they just tell you a half hour early so you're on time. The lady seemed smug and I'm sure she was thinking (for people like you) which is so frustrating because I'm usually 10-30 minutes early for things like this! Ah well.

So, finally they take me back and the first person to come in seems young. I know the neurosurgeon I'm seeing is from Germany and world famous - I figured he'd have a certain...air about him. And that he'd be a little older. Well this doctor introduces himself and turns out he's the Chief Resident. He assured me I'd still see the main guy, but he was going to ask some questions to help smooth things along. Fine with me.

So I told him about the aneurysm, answered some questions about family history and whatnot and then fired off my list of questions which mostly were about how having an aneurysm would affect pregnancy and child birth. Anyway, that was all good news! He said that they're very supportive of patients going ahead with pregnancy and childbirth and that they've not had any reason to believe one condition affects the other. (sigh of relief...) So then he went back to meet with the head boss.

A few minutes later an older gentlemen strides into the room with exactly the confidence, grace and air I expected of such a famous neurosurgeon. (quick aside: I heard this somewhere, but can't remember where: what's the difference between a neurosurgeon and a rocket scientist? Both being relatively intelligent professions, of course. The difference is margin of acceptable error...for a neurosurgeon, it's zero. Hmm...words for thought) Anyway, so he strolls in and introduces himself and then looks at me a little puzzled and says, well, if there is something there, it's too small for me to say if it is an aneurysm. And if it IS, in fact, an aneurysm, then it's so small that the risk from it is far less than any risk from trying to go in to fix it. (ie brain surgery) So his recommendation is to carry on with a healthy lifestyle, and then come back in a year for an MRA just to be sure that nothing has changed or grown (because I did have one splitting headache since the CT scan that sounded a lot like the kind you get when an aneurysm ruptures) but after that, just forget the anomaly is even there.

So, major sigh of relief. I didn't even realize how much this had been weighing on my mind until I walked out of the appointment. I felt inches taller from a weight being lifted! And I'm so thankful that there's probably nothing wrong in my head and I can go on living as if I'm normal. (hah!)

About this Blog

I have a journal. You know, the real kind...paper, bound in a book form...nice leather cover. And I do write in it...every few months. I like it, but somehow I find it hard to keep up regularly. I'm at a computer nearly all the time, so I find it easier to keep up on this blog. So, that's what this blog is for. To help me journal when I'm away from my journal. A place to collect my thoughts before I lose them to the chaos of my mind.

Or see my first post here. That's why I started this blog.